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‘It’s a matter of training and confidence’: Calgary WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday

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‘It’s a matter of training and confidence’: Calgary World War II veteran celebrates 100th birthday
A Calgary Second World War veteran celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, Harold Kearl recalls his time spent as a pilot, and memories of his brother who never returned from the war. – Dec 10, 2022

Harold Kearl is a remarkable storyteller, but as incredible as his stories are is his ability to recall details from 100 years of experience — as though they happened yesterday.

On Saturday, friends and family gathered at a church in northwest Calgary to celebrate Kearl’s 100th birthday.

He was born in Cardston, Alta. and served as a pilot during the Second World War.
His big brother, Eldon Kearl died in 1944 when his Lancaster was shot down.  Two weeks later, Harold completed his training as a pilot

“At that time, my parents came to my graduation as a pilot with heavy hearts to see their second son going overseas,” recalled Kearl.

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He remembers a brush with death when he was flying over the North Sea in the dark  and his flight instrument failed.

“We get a night cloud and it’s dark and this artificial horizon that tells you if your wings are level or not stopped working. So what do I do? I went back to my training that I took in High River.  I talked to myself, and I said, ‘Harold, you know how to do this, you have been taught it. Do it.’ Your crew can’t hear you, so you talk to yourself and you convince yourself,” He said

Kearl continued to fly many missions. He also found his brother’s grave after the war ended. Their story is featured at The Military Museums in Calgary.

Living this long and surviving a war, Kear. says he has learned about the value of teamwork in any setting.

“I think you have to operate together as a crew and understand one another. If you operate as a crew, you have confidence in each other that things will work out right.  If you run into difficulty, the end depends a lot on your captain’s decision on what he does.”

Kearl was married to his wife, Marilyn for 72 years and the couple had five children.  Marilyn passed away in 2020 at the age of 95.

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After the war, Kearl did missionary work in the Philippines and was a bishop with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

During that time, he performed many marriage ceremonies, including Lorne Fleming’s.

Fleming was one of the many guests at the birthday party on Saturday. He’s known Harold for 61 years.

“He’s very, very, honest and the dearest friend I’ve ever had. He’s earned every one of those years. He’s a bit of a war hero from some of the stories he’s told me. It’s an honour to be in his presence anytime,” Fleming said.

Friends at the party said Kearl’s interest in current events, ease with people and his quick smile make him a delight to speak with.  He’s humble about offering his opinion about the key to longevity, but believes proper training goes a long way in reaching the century mark.

“Young people use the term luck, but that doesn’t apply very much. It’s a matter of training and confidence in yourself and your crew. I think it’s partly the discipline you learn in the services because today, youth are not necessarily disciplined in that way.”

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